Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Bangarra Dance Company.
Canberra Theatre 2nd and 3rd September.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Photos Jeff Busby

Like all great choreographers, Stephen Page has developed a lexicon of distinctive dance moves. His are deeply rooted in indigenous culture, which he mines continually to produce a cornucopia of ideas to tell his stories. His choreographic style is completely recognisable, but despite twenty years choreographing for the Bangarra Dance Company he shows no signs of becoming repetitive or predictable.

With “ID”, which formed the second half of the latest Bangarra program, he continues to fascinate with the fertility of his ideas as he explores contemporary indigenous identity, both urban and traditional.

Against a filmed backdrop in which the face of aboriginal elder, Kathy Marika dominates, Page presents a series of images reflecting aspects of aboriginal life. Not all are easy to watch. Children painting their faces with Vegemite to become blacker, a grotesquely stiffened corpse being carted away, a butcher dismembering a body, drew audible gasps from the audience. Other sections were breathtakingly beautiful, particularly one which appeared to be taking place in burnt-out eucalypt trees.

No less fascinating was Elma Kris’s gentle, abstract work “About”, for which she focussed on the four winds which influence the seasons on the Torres Strait Islands.

Apart from the stunning choreography, “Belong” was particularly notable for the complete conviction and commitment with which the dancers performed works, the evocative soundscapes of David Page, the lovely soft flowing costumes by Emma Howell, and the beautifully lit, sculptural settings of Jacob Nash.

An Edited version of this review appears in "City New" September 8th-14th September